Jerry Gordon (1937-2015)

Beauty Legend Known as "The Intellectual Hairdresser"

The young-at-heart Jerry Gordon, owner of J. Gordon Designs in Lincoln Park and former President of Cosmetologists Chicago (the largest association of salon professionals in the Midwest), passed away Thanksgiving night (11.26.15) of complications from COPD; he was 78. As the third generation (with his son and daughter as the fourth) in the beauty business, a Ferrari race car driver, business leader, internationally respected educator and all around bon vivant, Gordon was a very proud native son who was raised in Hyde Park and loved Chicago. 

Karen Gordon, wife and partner of Jerry for 34 years, comments,  "For over sixty years,  husband Jerry was the thinking woman's hairdresser. He was well traveled, he read four newspapers a day, he studied international news and he had an uncanny ability to retain and recall information. He could hold a stimulating, interesting and relevant conversation with anyone - be high powered clients, and wives of senators, movie stars, Tipper Gore ... or the cab driver ... Jerry could talk. But the best thing I can say about Jerry, is that he lived  in a world without prejudice. He loved all people, no matter the color or country of origin."

Gordon recently stated, "I was lucky to have a lot of freedom. To travel and study with masters all over the world". Study began in New York and continued in Europe with Vidal Sassoon in England and Aldo Coppola (head editorial stylist for Vogue Italia) in Milan. He became assistant to Frenchman Andre Anouge (world's number one stylist for Clairol) and worked with him in Paris, New York and toured the United States wit him. He also toured the country for other top companies such as Revlon and Conair. In the 1970's, he joined the Helene Curtis Advisory Board doing hair shows and commercials. When he wasn't touring, he was working in the family salon, Elizabeth Gordon Hair Design, in South Shore and Hyde Park.


To Gordon, life was like growing up in show business. He was already there. His grandmother was a wig maker and his mother was a cosmetologist who loved her work. In 1976, he bought his own salon, J. Gordon Designs, in Lincoln Park where he worked on the weekdays. The weekends were for Aveda. "My greatest influence in life was Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda, who was the best hairdresser I had ever seen. He was the World Champion when I met him at 23. I toured the world teaches business classes for him", said Gordon.


Gordon recently stated, "Today is the best time in my life, because I still get very excited about things. I recently visited Japan, saw wonderful work in Iceland and saw a perfectly executed- from the hair to the clothing- hair presentation in Taiwan. Retirement is not in my lexicon. I don't understand why people retire unless they're in poor health or unless they hate what they do. I love what I do. I  have a wonderful life partner, Karen, who is an incredibly colorist, my business manager and a major contributor to the success of the business. Additionally, I have great clients, amazing women who are a pleasure to be with and great workers who I love to teach. Teaching them to be a master craftsman is my responsibility. Learn from people who are better than you... that's growth".

Gordon and his Chicago staff worked with top photographers and models for fashion presentations, magazine covers and media advertising. He was an industry consultant to Proctor & Gamble and his list of awards and prizes range from Salon Owner of the year (American Salon Magazine) to formerly services as Vice President of InterCoiffure America/Canada, among many others. He was active in and served as President of Cosmetologists Chicago/America's Beauty Show. "Jerry taught us all so very much," commented Paul Dykstra, CEO of Cosmetologists Chicago. "He taught us about the beauty business and how to be successful in it. But most of all, he taught us how to live a full life and enjoy everything the beauty industry enables us to become".

In addition to wife Karen, Jerry is survived by son Tony, daughters Kathrine and Elizabeth, grandchildren Michael and Jessica... along with a host of relatives and dear friends.

Jerry Gordon was a man who loved life. "Fashion, style, music and the arts should be fun and give a sense of joy. Joy is exciting", Gordon recently stated. "I want to do everything in a state of excellence as long as possible. It's been over sixty years, I intent to keep working as long as I'm physically capable. I'm absolutely having more fun than ever".

Jerry Gordon worked in the salon the day before Thanksgiving. He passed Thanksgiving night after having "The Best Thanksgiving Dinner of [his] life".

A public memorial celebrating the of Jerry Gordon was held in late December 2015. At Jerry's request, any donations in his memory should be made to his favorite charity, Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. 10175 Wheeler Rd.,Central Point OR 97502. Or visit: